Colonoscopy blitz to clear waiting lists

A $12 million campaign to cut colonoscopy waiting lists in Victoria will see more than 6500 patients get faster access to endoscopy, the state government says.

Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy has announced a $12 million funding boost for public hospitals to fast-track access and cut waiting times for colonoscopy procedures.

The move will provide colonoscopies for 6,635 of the patients in the most urgent category and who have been waiting the longest, she said.

“This colonoscopy procedure blitz will get patients off the waiting list and diagnosed sooner right across Victoria.”

The minister noted that demand for colonoscopies had risen sharply across Australia due to an ageing population and increased screening from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

In Victoria, public hospitals had experienced a 23% increase in demand for colonoscopies between 2014-15 and 2016-17, when more than 54,000 colonoscopies were performed in Victorian public hospitals.

The colonoscopy campaign follows criticism from the opposition politicians, who pointed to health department figures showing average waiting times for colonoscopy ranging from 45 days to 150 days at some hospitals.

Shadow Assistant Minister for Health Margaret Fitzherbert said the state government had failed to monitor colonoscopy waiting times and allocate resources to the hospitals with longer waits.

“[The government’s] decision not to work with hospitals to improve patient outcomes means Victorians diagnosed with bowel cancer aren’t getting the treatment they need, when they need it,” she said.

Health minister Jill Hennessy said the new initiative would be accompanied by new Colonoscopy Guidelines for Victorian Patients that come into force from July, with a target to ensure all patients in urgent need of colonoscopies receive them within 30 days.

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